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Signs of Science

Literature, Science, and Spanish Modernity since 1868

by Dale Pratt

Publication Year: 2001

Signs of Science: Literature, Science, and Spanish Modernity since 1868 traces how Spanish culture represented scientific activity from the mid-nineteenth century onward. The book combines the global perspective afforded by historical narrative with detailed rhetorical analyses of images of science in specific literary and scientific texts. As literary criticism it seeks to illuminate similarities and differences in how science and scientists are pictured; as cultural history it follows the course of a centuries-long dialogue about Spain and science.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

My thanks to the many friends, teachers, and colleagues who inspired me as I worked on this book. First to suggest that I study the rhetoric of Ramon y Cajal was Ciriaco Moron Arroyo, who has always served as the perfect guide for understanding Spanish intellectual history and culture. His- knowledge and faith, humor and sincerity, have shaped my life in untold ways...

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pp. 1-14

On a recent trip to Madrid, the bus I took from the airport in Barajas to the Plaza de Col6n was caught in the usual morning traffic jam. The irritated driver shouted "Esto no pasa en Europa!" thereby expressing the commonplace that Spain has not been part of mainstream European culture since the heyday of Felipe II...

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Chapter One: "One Short Sentence:" The Spanish Reception of Darwinism

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pp. 15-48

The idea that forms of life wildly different from those now living once existed on the earth intrigues and disquiets us. Dinosaurs-Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Barney-hold the preeminent place among cultural representations of prehistoric life. Any visit to a toy store, a children's library or museum, or a peek...

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Chapter Two: Decorative Science, Pendants, and Spanish Realism

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pp. 49-80

In the literary mind, science can either work alongside the Muses or attempt to replace them. As the previous chapter shows, the realists relegated discussions of the most radical scientific theory of the nineteenth century...

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Chapter Three: Science, Faith, and Reference

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pp. 81-102

In his 1956 song "(How Little It Matters) How Little We Know," Frank Sinatra aptly poses the. epistemological verity facing every scientific investigator: scientific knowledge eventually fails to explain certain phenomena...

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Chapter Four: "Perspectivas tan vastas:" "Scientific" Images of Science

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pp. 103-131

In La fe and Cuentos de vacaciones, science serves mainly to signify one extreme of the bipolar cultural debate of faith ver:sus modernity, though the latter text expresses far more faith in the powers of empiricism. and reason. The sign science in Cuentos also fulfills a function beyond evoking utopian possibilities for the future: it...

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Chapter Five: The Tragicomedy of Science in 1898

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pp. 132-153

Cajal's studies of the nervous system trace the limits of scientific realism. The workings of the cellular world obviously have global effects on the body, but the greater the detail of Cajal's descriptions, the more difficult...

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Chapter Six: "Muy Siglo XX:" Science and Culture

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pp. 154-182

From the later Unamuno's perspective, science holds a position of primacy in European culture, a fact that permanently distances Spain from Europe. The "tragic feeling of life" results from the most difficult question ever to face philosophy: how to justify its pursuit of reason as a worthy...

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pp. 183-185

This study has sought to follow a few basic values of the sign science through one hundred years of literary and cultural history: science as reliable epistemology; science as cultural force; and science as source of aesthetic material. This historical narrative arises...


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pp. 187-202

Works Cited

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pp. 203-218


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pp. 219-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490854
E-ISBN-10: 1612490859
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557532213
Print-ISBN-10: 1557532214

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spanish literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Spanish literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Science in literature.
  • Literature and science -- Spain.
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